Member of the Provincial Parliament of Ontario, or MPP, Randy Hillier, has introduced Bill 112, a repeal of the breed-specific legislation (BSL) section of the Dog Owner’s Liability Act (DOLA), which banned so-called “pit bulls” in the province of Ontario in 2005.
Bill 112 is MPP Hillier’s revival of Bill 16 — formerly Hersheys Bill. Consideration of Bill 16 was ended in 2011 when then Premier Dalton McGuinty resigned and again prorogued, or discontinued the session of, the Queen’s Park Legislature.
The breed-specific portion of the Dog Owners Liability Act has been conspicuously ineffective legislation as both Hamilton, Ontario and the Toronto Humane Society have acknowledged. Indeed, in 2010, the Toronto Humane Society released a statement which noted,
A study by the Toronto Humane Society released earlier this year found that the number of dog bites in Ontario had changed little since the ban was put in place.
Hamilton and the Toronto Humane Society arent the only ones making the case against Ontarios pit bull ban. Bruce Roney, Executive Director of the Ottawa, Ontario Humane Society, likewise argued that pit bulls and their owners shouldnt be discriminated against in the province:
I think people should be concerned about aggressive behaviour in dogs and dogs biting, but thats not exclusive to pit bulls . . . All breeds of dogs ” given certain circumstances ” are going to bite. And the way to manage it isnt to identify one breed as bad or worse than the other.
It has long been known that breed-specific legislation does not reduce dog bite incidence rates because BSL myopically focuses on only a few breeds, or types, of dogs to the exclusion of other dogs that, in the wrong hands, can likewise bite or attack.
But then the Dog Owners Liability Act wasn’t just ineffective because it was breed-specific; DOLA itself was a poorly-written piece of legislation. For instance, DOLA refers to “pit bulls” as if they were both an actual breed and a conglomeration of breeds. Yet as we often say on this site, “pit bull” is not a breed.
The definitions section of the Dog Owner’s Liability Act defines a “pit bull” as,
(a) a pit bull terrier,
(b) a Staffordshire bull terrier,
(c) an American Staffordshire terrier,
(d) an American pit bull terrier,
(e) a dog that has an appearance and physical characteristics that are substantially similar to those of dogs referred to in any of clauses (a) to (d); (pit-bull)
While Staffy Bulls, AmStaffs, and APBTs are actual breeds, “pit bull terrier” is not. Nor does the vague definition — “a dog that has an appearance and physical characteristics that are substantially similar to those of dogs referred to in any of clauses (a) to (d); (pit-bull)” — cover any discrepancies.
For instance, if I lived in Ontario and had a Bull Terrier, a Bull Mastiff, an American Bulldog, or even a Boxer or a mixed-breed dog that was medium- or large-sized and well-muscled, just to list a few examples, I’d be wondering if my dog qualified under DOLA. Worse, the legislation would have done little to help me determine if I had a banned breed or not. Additionally, if I were to try to find out if my dog qualified as a restricted “breed” under DOLA, particularly if I acquired the dog after 2005, would authorities take my dog away?
So do you see how poorly-written, vague breed-specific legislation has the potential to turn once perfectly law-abiding citizens into unwitting scofflaws?
For these reasons, it is well past time to repeal Ontario’s impotent breed-specific legislation. As a petition on MPP Hillier’s own website states:
The people of Ontario have spoken out and demanded an end to BSL. That’s why Bill 16 passed through the Legislature at second reading with all party support and Committee. It’s time we finish the work we have begun.